The week rounded out with some easy bike rides, Friday over and down to Canton for a late lunch and grading before settling in for some solid people watching before catching a ride home with N., and the a jaunt up to Hampden on Saturday for acupuncture and fries, a most excellent combination. I made a stop in Remington on my way home to pick up this week’s farm share at Mill Valley General Store. I don’t even remember forking over the cash for this–I signed up months ago–so it feels like Christmas every week, walking in there with my bike bag to pick four of whatever I like from the bins filled, this week, with chard, kale, kohlrabi, broccoli, cauliflower, radishes, arugula, garlic scapes, snap peas, and the list goes on. I was limited by what I could fit in my bag, so I grabbed a couple of cauliflower, a bunch of arugula, and a cabbage. The bag was overflowing and I was happy and on my way. My only complaint? Get us a bike rack, please! I snapped this picture from my bike, locked to a sign on Sisson, and while I love the view of traffic and blue sky and warehouse, I’d love to be able to park off the main drag. But if that’s my only Saturday complaint, I’d say I’m getting off easy.
First, I have to say something about the weather. It is so hot and humid out. This is obvious to anyone in the are, but wow, it makes a difference in how riding feels. I’m sleeping like a rock, like I’ll need a crane to peel me off the bed in the morning, because riding in this humidity sucks the life force from me. I mean, I still love it, but it takes some acclimatizing is all. I got some of that out of the way with my long ride on Tuesday and commuting on Wednesday, but on Thursday the best I could do was the mile to and from the YMCA. N. and I just joined for pool access so N. can use it to heal this back spasm that’s gripped her for the past three weeks, and I’m using it to get back to weight training and maybe a group class or two. Thursday’s was Urban Line Dancing, which as far as I could tell meant Black folks, not white country folks. I rode to the gym, sweaty after just ten minutes, locked up to the rack, took a minute to judge the blue fixie rider for locking their impracticable bike horizontally on the U-rack, and headed in to join the twenty or so other dancers. I was close to the youngest, and the only white person, and it struck me how rarely that ever happens in my life. Our social spaces are so segregated by age and race, generally, that rarely do I find myself in the minority, other than sometimes in the classroom–a privilege, but also a cost of whiteness. It’s only Smalltimore because we live such segregated lives, you know. Everyone was friendly enough, and I gamed my way through the six or so dances (though Bmore Nights is going to take some out-of-class work if I’m going to get it), and had a really good time. The steps were complicated, so all I could do was focus on them, and that was a treat. I said my goodbyes on the way out, happy to have found another place to play, this one in ac. Thanks, this YMCA, for being welcoming to so many kinds of folks. I snapped this picture on my way out. All blue skies, no sign of the humidity.
Oh, I needed to get a little lost on Tuesday, have one of those rides where I’m not just transporting myself but getting myself settled in to the city, a reminder that I live in a place bigger than my *place*. So that’s what I did, snaking south and east and south and east until west again. I had two stops in mind–ice cream at the place where I had a coupon for free ice cream (did you know the first commercial ice creameries that made the treat available for mass consumption opened right here in Baltimore?) And Federal Hill, where I was on tap to hold a still-new baby so her mom could take a shower and shake out her arms. I never got totally lost, but I can’t tell you exactly where this school is, the one with the exterior in scrubbed shades of blue that suggest it’s going to get torn down but with the new playground equipment that says it’s here to stay. It was near Harford Road or Aisquith or one of those diagonal cuts through the city, which I know because I waited at the light with a construction truck driver who had waited for me to pull out into the street. We did the ol’ smile-and-nod and then I was on my way, past a park with a tree halfway fallen over, past rows and rows of vacant homes and stoopsitters and road construction crews and food trucks outside Johns Hopkins. And then I was on Baltimore Street watching the guys fill the pool and admiring the head start these community gardeners had gotten. I rode my circles until I was back on my old route from Canton to Fed Hill and back north to Charles Village, and I only wished I could have stayed lost just a little bit longer, because that’s how I know where I am.
Friday was busy with appointments and last minute preparation for an art show in Rockville, but N. got me out on the bike with a set of clues that led me down to the Baltimore Museum of Industry, where she got me a membership for my birthday last week. That’s a really, really good present for a girl like me. It was a quick ride down to the pedestrian-packed ring around the harbor–that’s just going to get better or worse, depending on your perspective. I got off the bike to squeeze past the guys laying new concrete around a fire hydrant–that concrete had a message written into it by the time I rode back–and then dodged the grates and cars on Key Highway. I signaled and took my left into the museum’s parking lot and joined two other bikes on the rack. I love it when I’m not the only bike! I was ostensibly there for the Antietam Banjo Association conference, but they turned out to be reservation-only. I didn’t have one, so I spent my time checking out the banjo exhibit instead. Turns out the first mentions of the banjo in the U.S. were in advertisements seeking the capture of enslaved people who had escaped to freedom. The instrument was used mostly by African Americans before being used in blackface minstrelsy shows. Eventually white people played them without the blackface, and they became the sterotypical instrument of choice for poor white Southerners and Appalachians. Totally interesting, and I carried that story of movement, appropriation, and the politics of cultural life with me as I wandered through the rest of the museum, past the linotype machine and the Wall of Firsts (Baltimore is home to some pretty great firsts) and the canning displays and this spice grinder used to make Old Bay. Industrial museums are an odd form of nostalgia. And then it was time to get back up the hill, so I was on my way, joining the traffic and regretting the choice to not let N. put sunscreen on my back. I have to get over how little I like that smell and feel, because it’s all sun from here on out.
Thursday’s ride took me up to Morgan State for another stint on the Marc Steiner show, this time to talk about bikes. C. was going to, and he just lives a couple blocks from me, so when he suggested we ride together, I said sure, as long as he knew in advance that I am in absolutely no hurry to get up hills. I haven’t found a hill in the region that I can’t get up on the Surly, but I will pretty much always be the last on to the top. I have no problem with that fact, and neither did he, so away we went. C. got his Master’s from Morgan, so he took me on the rather circuitous route he takes from two years of experimenting. I loved being the follow, pedaling down streets I haven’t seen, taking the street where he took the sidewalk, and then we were there, two bikes to be on a show with two other bicyclists about how to improve bicycling in the city, and there were no racks to lock to in front of this shiny new building on a college campus, a block from the left turn onto the Collegetown Bike Route that’ll take you over to Notre Dame. Sometimes how to increase bicycling is pretty simple–get some racks, Steiner! I locked to a sign, he brought his bike inside, and then we all got to go on about the rapturous joy of riding in the city–the sense of freedom, of being part of where you live, the ease of exploring new places–the list goes on. Three minutes of that and I was ready to call the show so we could all go outside and take a ride. C. and I did just that after the show, and don’t tell anybody, but I actually kinda liked riding with a friend. If you have some extra cash, throw some his way at bikemore.net.
Summer is actually, finally, for real here, and that meant a sweaty ride down the hill and up again over to Federal Hill, making sure to take a hit of water at every red light. It’s no joke, riding on hills in this heat, so if you’re out there, do not forget the water. Or the sunscreen. Seriously, people–bring your supplies with you, and get a rack so you don’t have to lug a bag around on your back. Alright, enough preaching. Continue reading
Saturday’s ride was a short one, down the hill to find Baltimore’s Gay Pride Parade. They moved it this year, so it was all spread out and felt pretty empty, and it definitely felt more sober as the party wasn’t right in front of the bar. In fact, drinkers had to stand in line, get a wristband, and drink inside the beer cage. That took care of the vomiting in the gutters and alcoholic littering, sure, but it also meant, for me, that it felt a whole lot less organic and a whole lot more like a police-orchestrated public space. Continue reading